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How to manage difficult work relationships?

Some of my clients were struggling with difficult relationships at work. Of course every situation is different and solutions may vary depending on the root causes of challenging relationships at work. Here are some general principles that you can think of to improve boundaries with difficult colleagues.


1. Set clear expectations: Be specific about what you need from your difficult colleague and what you are willing to tolerate. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that clear communication and expectations helped reduce conflict and improve work relationships.

2. Use assertive communication: Assertive communication involves stating your needs and boundaries firmly but respectfully. A study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that using assertive communication can help reduce stress and conflict in workplace relationships.

3. Practice self-care: Maintaining clear boundaries can be emotionally exhausting. Make sure you are taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking breaks when needed. This may sound self-evident, but from time to time I come across cases where my clients have not found time for these necessary daily routines due to work overload (including myself, from time to time…).

4. Seek support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to a supervisor, HR representative, or a trusted colleague for support in maintaining boundaries with a difficult coworker. A study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology found that having social support at work can help reduce stress and improve well-being.

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